Unfortunately, the biggest news coming from the post
position draw for Saturday's 75th running of the $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap (Grade I) run at the
classic distance of 1 ¼-miles over the main track was that Bob Baffert has
elected to have Game On Dude bypass an attempt at a repeat victory and ship
across the world for the $10 million Dubai World Cup (Group 1) on March 31.
Controversy ensued after a lengthy inquiry last year, when
Game On Dude took the worst of the bumping at the top of the stretch, but
battled back after being past by Setsuko to beat him to the wire by a nose at
14-to-1 under Chantal Sutherland.
A solid 2011 campaign that had the five-year-old gelded son
of Awesome Again in the discussion for Horse of the Year honors culminated with a
runner-up finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (Grade I) at Churchill Downs in
A perfect 4-for-4 over Santa Anita’s main track after
beginning 2012 with a romping 5 ¼-length victory in the San Antonio (Grade II) on Feb. 5, Game On
Dude would have been trying to become just the fourth horse to win consecutive Big
Setsuko dipped out of a graded stakes for the first time since
his race prior to last year’s Big ‘Cap to finally capture his second career win
in an allowance optional claiming race on Feb. 4. Gelded prior to that start,
the five-year-old son of Pleasantly Perfect drew post No. 9 and was made the
4-to-1 second choice for trainer Richard Mandella, who is in search of his
fourth Big ‘Cap.
“I’ve had a lot of experience with frustration,” Mandella
said regarding last year’s inquiry process. “He’s trained really well. If they
gelded me imagine how well I’d do.”
The new star on the scene is Ulitmate Eagle, who will carry the top weight of 120-lbs. and was made
the 5-to-2 morning line favorite after drawing post No. 2. The four-year-old son of Mizzen Mast is already a Grade I winner at 1 ¼-miles after capturing the Hollywood Derby on turf last year, and has won five of his last six starts including a resounding 7 ¼-length score in his debut on dirt in
the Strub Stakes (Grade II) on Feb. 4.
"We would have liked to have run against Game On Dude, but I have no idea what Baffert thinks. None of us do," said Ultimate Eagle's owner B.J. Wright.
Baffert is not without a runner in the Big ‘Cap, with Prayer
for Relief looking to snap a five-race losing streak since winning the Super
Derby (Grade II) at Louisiana Downs in September. The four-year-old son of Jump
Start is listed at 8-to-1 and will break from post No. 11.
For the first time ever, the Santa Anita Handicap will be carded as the final race on an 11-race card with post time at approximately 5:15 pt.
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PP Horse (Morning Line Odds) Comment
1. Uh Oh Bango (6-1) AZ-bred
was over 5 lengths behind Game On Dude in San Antonio.
2. Ultimate Eagle (5-2)
Won 5-of-6 including trio of graded stakes since adding blinkers.
3. Ron the Greek (6-1) Pair of wins over last 2 years came
in ungraded stakes at Aqueduct.
4. Boxeur des Rues (50-1) Tries dirt for 1st
time off uncharacteristic O’Neill work tab.
5. Thirtyfirststreet (30-1) Either right there or nowhere
and latter seems more likely.
6. Twice the Appeal (30-1) 2-for-2 over this track in maiden
claiming & starter allowance.
7. Fiddler’s Afleet (50-1)
Flashed ’09 form on return to dirt in 1st for Eurton.
8. Gladding (12-1) Up the track last year, but benefits from less company on early pace.
9. Setsuko (4-1) Snapped 11-race losing streak
after ultimate equipment change.
10. Norvsky (6-1) Only dirt try came in runner-up finish at Fairplex.
11. Prayer for Relief (8-1) Quartet of losses off four-race
win streak for “other” Baffert.
12. Holladay Road (8-1)
Ambitiously placed by Escalante off restricted stakes win.
13. Victory Pete (50-1)
Winless in last 10 starts spanning nearly three years.
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